Rep.  Rachel Roberts attends her first meeting as a member of the committee overseeing Kentucky’s to

Frankfort – Noting the far-reaching impact that Kentucky’s tobacco settlement funds have on early childhood development, Kentucky’s collective health and farming, state Rep. Rachel Roberts said she is looking forward to serving as the newest member of the General Assembly’s Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee.  She attended her first meeting this morning.  “For 20 years now, these funds have made a profound difference in the health and well-being of so many Kentuckians, while really helping our farmers diversify what they raise and grow,” said Rep. Roberts of Newport.  “We’ve had a lot of success with this multi-pronged approach over the years, and I’m looking forward to doing my part to see that trend continue.” The 12-member committee was formed in 2000 after Kentucky and most other states reached a $200 billion settlement with the major tobacco companies, which agreed to provide the money over a 25-year period.  The committee’s sole focus is overseeing how Kentucky’s portion of that settlement is spent to benefit agriculture, which receives half of the annual payments, and healthcare and early childhood programs, which split the other half. During today’s meeting, members heard from the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood. This fiscal year, it reported, the agency will spend nearly $25.5 million in settlement dollars.  That money will go to a variety of programs that help young children’s development, their mental and dental health and the quality of their daycare.  Money also is used to assist new and expectant parents when it comes to providing the best care for their newborn. Catrena Bowman-Thomas, the executive director for the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission, noted how important the settlement funds are for her agency.  “NKCAC is working to provide a safe space for children during this pandemic, so the early childhood funds are more critical than ever,” she said.  “It allows parents to return to work and for children to continue to receive high quality childcare that will prepare them for the future.” “Our community benefits in ways large and small from these settlement dollars,” Rep. Roberts added.  “And that includes the agricultural side as well, even though Northern Kentucky is relatively limited when it comes to farming.  Still, we are greatly impacted by the industry that provides our food, fuel and fibers, and we also see direct help from this settlement in the way it boosts our farmers’ markets and helps our food pantries address the critical issue of hunger.  Overall, we’re working to truly maximize every settlement dollar we get.”

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